Does a Home-Build Boat need a UKCA mark?


The Regulations state:

The following shall be excluded from the scope of this Regulation: …….. craft built for own use, provided that they are not subsequently placed on the Community market during a period of five years;

The first point to note is that the boat is not exempt until 5 years have passed. During that 5 year period the boat is in a sort of limbo period with regards to its status.  During this time, the boat may not change ownership, even if given away without charge.  For some reason, divorce and home-build boats appear to go hand-in-hand and HPi-CEproof deals with several cases every year where a home-build is having to be UKCA marked before the 5 years have passed because the boat is to be sold as part of the divorce settlement!

The big question that this exemption raises, however, is when does the 5-year clock start ticking?  The answer is when the boat is complete.  But when is a boat complete?  The best interpretation that HPi-CEproof has heard quoted by a lawyer is:

A product is complete when it can be used to its full design capabilities.

But be careful! The UK Government recently decreed that a ‘sail-away’ boat is complete when it is navigable, even if its interior is not fully fitted-out. So, it is probably safest to interpret ‘complete’ as being when the boat can be navigated. This raises the next, very significant point: whenever an already CE/UKCA marked vessel is modified in such a way that compliance with the regulations may be altered, a formal Post Construction Assessment certificate is required. So if a sailaway is complete and CE/UKCA marked, when you fit it out, even as an owner, you are potentially carrying out a ‘major craft conversion’ and PCA is mandatory. There is no ‘home-builder’ exemption for a major craft conversion.

If you are a home builder, identifying the point of completion and formally recording it is very important. Insurance certificates, registration documents, berthing receipts etc. are all useful evidence.

The final question to consider is whether the home-builder can contract out some work or does he have to do it all himself?  The EU Commission’s own guidance document on RCD states the following:

This [exemption of a home-builder] does not preclude the sub-contracting, by the builder, of specialists in certain aspects of the fitting out of the boat e.g. electrical or electronic engineers.

So it is clear that some sub-contracting is permitted but the Commission’s guidance also states:

Boats built for own use have the concept that a person is building their own boat and not having it built by others.

So how much can work be contracted before the builder is no longer the builder in the eyes of the law? There is no clear answer to this question but for guidance, HPi-CEproof would make the following point. The RCR has distinct Essential Requirements (ER).  Any work that does not directly impinge upon these ERs does not constitute work in terms of RCR.

Click here to see all the RCR ESRs

RCR Essential Requirements

1 Design Category

2 General requirements

2.1 Craft Identification Number;
2.2 Builder’s Plate;
2.3 Protection from falling overboard & means of re-boarding;
2.4 Visibility from the main steering position;
2.5 Owner’s manual:

3 Integrity and structural requirements

3.1 Structure;
3.2 Stability and freeboard;
3.3 Buoyancy and floatation;
3.4 Openings in hull, deck and superstructure;
3.5 Flooding;
3.6 Manufacturer’s maximum recommended load;
3.7 Liferaft stowage;
3.8 Escape;
3.9 Anchoring, mooring and towing:

4 Handling characteristics

5 Systems

5.1 Engines and engine spaces;
5.2 Fuel system;
5.3 Electrical systems;
5.4 Steering systems;
5.5 Gas systems;
5.6 Fire protection;
5.7 Navigation lights;
5.8 Discharge prevention

It should be noted that joinery, decoration and furnishings do not appear in the ERs.  So fitting out a boat with cabins, berths, seats, lockers etc does not constitute “building” and would not qualify a person as a “home-builder” in terms of the RCR.  On the contrary, a home-builder would be expected to have completed a number of the regulated systems, listed above, in order to qualify.

To provide some clarity, one can show that many nations, including UK, have regulations that require only qualified/registered individuals to fit gas & electrical systems. So it would be considered normal to contract out work on these systems. But the other systems are not associated with their own distinct fitter-qualifications and a home builder would be expected to have completed the majority of these himself.

To talk about the specifics of a case, contact HPi-CEproof.

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